A Higher Minimum Wage - The Best Stimulus, Assert Workers, Business Owners, Organizers and Faith Leaders

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Jul 15 2009
Contact: Betsy Leondar-Wright

Marilynn Winn, Atlanta worker getting raise July 24When the federal minimum wage rises from $6.55 to $7.25 an hour on July 24, the national Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign will celebrate – and call for another increase to $10 in 2010.

Atlanta Worker Marilynn Winn

“The minimum wage was enacted during the Great Depression to put a floor under workers’ wages and stimulate the economy. We need that boost today,” said Holly Sklar, Let Justice Roll Senior Policy Adviser and author of the just-updated Raising the Minimum Wage in Hard Times and Raise the Minimum Wage to $10 in 2010. “The long-term fall in worker buying power is one reason we are in the worst economic crisis since the Depression. $10 in 2010 will foster a productive economy fueled by living wages rather than destructive debt and speculation.”

Why $10 in 2010? The decade between 1997 and 2007 was the longest period in history without a minimum wage increase. Recent raises are so little, so late that even with the increase July 24, workers will still make less than they did in 1956, adjusting for inflation. It would take $9.83 today to match the buying power of the minimum wage of 1968. “You can’t build a strong economy on poverty wages,” said Sklar. “A job should keep you out of poverty, not keep you in it.

Critics oppose minimum wage increases in good times and bad, claiming they will increase unemployment. Extensive research, summarized in Raising the Minimum Wage in Hard Times, shows that increasing minimum wage does not increase unemployment.

Minimum wage workers are also consumers. Minimum wage raises are well-targeted stimulus because they go directly to those who most need to spend additional dollars on food, fuel, rent and healthcare.

Rev. Paul Sherry, Executive Director of Let Justice Roll, says, “It is immoral that the minimum wage does not cover the cost of basic human needs. A recession does not justify poverty wages to prop up a troubled economy. We need a wage ethic to go with our work ethic.”

In Tennessee and Georgia, Let Justice Roll will spotlight the minimum wage raise at events featuring low-wage workers, supportive business owners, faith leaders and organizers of state and local living wage campaigns:

In Nashville, Tenn., organizers who recently succeeded in stopping a ban on local living wage ordinances will celebrate the raise at 4:30 pm on July 24 on Legislative Plaza.
  • Megan Macaraeg, director of Mid Tennessee Jobs with Justice and leader in the Nashville living wage campaign, will say, “It's time we stop accepting poverty wages for anyone. Our work here in Tennessee is an important building block in Let Justice Roll’s campaign to raise the federal minimum wage to $10 in 2010."
  • Walter Jasper, who earns minimum wage at Shur Brite Car Wash and was profiled in the Wall Street Journal, will speak about how his raise and his wife’s will help them catch up on their rent, but will still not be enough to make ends meet.

In Atlanta, Georgia, Let Justice Roll member groups will hold a press conference with local workers getting a raise and supportive business owners:

  • Marilynn Winn, who earns $6.75 an hour as a temp and helps support her mother and grandson, will say, “The jobs I work are often invisible to the public. However they are very important to families and community health and safety.”

  • Lya Sorano, Founder, Atlanta Women in BusinessEntrepreneur Lya Sorano, founder of Atlanta Women in Business, says, “Raising the minimum wage is a no-brainer. How could we get out of this recession without putting more money into circulation?”

Lya Sorano is among 900 business owners and executives – including the CEOs of Costco, the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce and small business owners from every state  who have signed the Business for a Fair Minimum Wage statement supporting next week’s increase.

The owner of The Progress Bakery in Springdale, Arkansas, Jose Herrera, says, “The minimum wage increase is a good investment to push the economy forward. From a business owner’s point of view, I think it’s great because it would help my workers and customers earn more. If everyone earns more, they have more to spend, bringing in more business for me in the long run.

More than 600 faith leaders from all 50 states have endorsed Let Justice Roll’s letter calling for a $10 in 2010 minimum wage, and more are signing on every day. Inaugural signers include the leaders of 20 denominations and national faith organizations. You can find the Faith Leaders Letter and growing list of signatories at our website.

Our food banks and homeless shelters see more and more working people who can’t make ends meet on minimum wage. Our businesses don’t have enough customers,” said Rev. Steve Copley, chair of the Let Justice Roll board and leader of the Give Arkansas a Raise Now coalition that raised the Arkansas minimum wage in 2006. “More Americans have come to realize that too-low wages are a recipe for disaster, not just for individual families but for the economy as a whole. Our people and our economy need living wages.

Let Justice Roll will be posting new reports, videos, worker statements, charts, photos and other resources at our newly relaunched www.letjusticeroll.org website before and after July 24.

Contact Betsy Leondar-Wright to arrange interviews with national spokespeople, local organizers and workers in states getting a raise on July 24.

With over 100 member organizations, the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign is the leading faith, community, labor, business coalition committed to raising the minimum wage to a living wage at the state and federal level.